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To every branch a torch they tie,
And then bear it flaming through the for
ale and spirits, and pass a merry night," which seldom breaks up before two in the morning.
Although the origin of this usage is lost, and no tradition exists by which it can be traced, yet it may not be a strained surmise to derive it from the church ceremony of the day when branches of trees were carried in procession to decorate the altars, in commemoration of the offerings of the Magi, whose names are handed down to us as Melchior, Gaspar, and Balthasar, the patrons of travellers. In catholic countries, flambeaus and torches always abound in their ceremonies; and persons residing in the streets through which they pass, testify their zeal and piety by providing flambeaus at their own expense, and bringing them lighted to the doors of their houses.
W. H. H.
The deer of Cranbourn chase usually average about ten thousand in number. In the winter of 1826, they were presumed to amount to from twelve to fifteen thousand. This increase is ascribed to the unusual mildness of recent winters, and the consequent absence of injuries which the animals are subject to from severe weather.
In the month of November, a great number of deer from the woods and pastures of the Chase, between Gunvile and Ashmore, crossed the narrow downs on the western side, and descended into the adjacent parts of the vale of Black more in quest of subsistence. There was a large increase in the number about twelve years preceding, till the continued deficiency of food occasioned a mortality. Very soon afterwards, however, they again increased and emigrated for food to the vallies, as in the present instance. At the former period, the greater part were not allowed or were
unable to return.
The tendency of deer to breed beyond the means of support, afforded by parks and other places wherein they are kept, has been usually regulated by converting them into venison. This is clearly more humane than suffering the herds so to enlarge, that there is scarcely for "every one a mouthfull, and no one a bellyfull." It is also better to pay a good price for good venison in season, than to have poor and cheap venison from the surplus of starving animals "killed off" in mercy to the remainder, or in compliance with the wishes of landholders whose grounds they invade in their extremity.
The emigration of the deer from Cranbourn Chase suggests, that as such cases arise in winter, their venison may be bestowed with advantage on labourers, who abound more in children than in the means of providing for them; and thus the surplus of the forest-breed be applied to the support and comfort of impoverished human beings.
Cranbourn is a market town and parish in the hundred of Cranbourn, Dorsetshire,about 12 miles south-west from Salisbury, and 93 from London. According to the last census, it contains 367 houses and 1823 inhabitants, of whom 104 are returned as being employed in trade. The parish includes a circuit of 40 miles, and the town is pleasantly situated in a fine champaign country at the north-east extremity of the county, near Cranbourn Chase, which extends
almost to Salisbury. Its market is on a Thursday, it has a cattle market in the spring, and its fairs are on St. Bartholomew's and St. Nicholas' days. It is the capital of the hundred to which it gives its name, and is a vicarage valued in the king's books at £6.13s. 4d. It is a place of high antiquity, famous in the Saxon and Norman times for its monastery, its chase, and its lords. The monastery belonged to the Benedictines, of which the church at the west end of the town was the priory.*
Affray in the Chase.
On the night of the 16th of December, 1780, a severe battle was fought between the keepers and deer-stealers on Chettle Common, in Bursey-stool Walk. The deerstealers had assembled at Pimperne, and were headed by one Blandford, a sergeant of dragoons, a native of Pimperne, then quartered at Blandford. They came in the night in disguise, armed with deadly offensive weapons called swindgels, resembling flails to thresh coru. They attacked the keepers, who were nearly equal in number, but had no weapons but sticks and short hangers. The first blow was struck by the leader of the gang, it broke a knee-cap of the stoutest man in the chase, which disabled him from joining in the combat, and lamed him for ever. Another keeper, from a blow with a swindgel, which broke three ribs, died some time after. The remaining keepers closed in upon their opponents with their hangers, and one of the dragoon's hands was severed from the arm, just above the wrist, and fell on the ground; the others were also dreadfully cut and wounded, and obliged to surrender. Blandford's arm was tightly bound with a list garter to prevent its bleeding, and he was carried to the lodge. The Rev. William Chafin, the author of "Anecdotes respecting Cranbourn Chase," says, "I saw him there the next day, and his hand in the window: as soon as he was well enough to be removed, he was committed, with his companions, to Dorchester gaol. The hand was buried in Pimperne churchyard, and, as reported, with the honours of war. Several of these offenders were labourers, daily employed by Mr. Beckford, and had, the preceding day dined in his servants' hall, and from thence went to join a confederacy to rob theit master." They were all tried, found guilty and condemned to be transported for seven years; but, in consideration of their great
Hutchins's Dorset. Capper.
suffering from their wounds in prison, the humane judge, sir Richard Perryn, commuted the punishment to confinement for an indefinite term. The soldier was not dismissed from his majesty's service, but suffered to retire upon half-pay, or pension; and set up a shop in London, which he denoted a game-factor's. He dispersed hand-bills in the public places, in order to get customers, and put one into Mr. Chafin's hand in the arch-way leading into Lincoln's-inn-square. "I immediately recognised him," says Mr. Chafin, "as he did me; and he said, that if I would deal with him, he would use me well, for he had, in times past, had many hares and pheasants of mine; and he had the assurance to ask me, if I did not think it a good breeding-season for game!"
Buck-hunting, in former times, was much more followed, and held in much greater repute, than now. From letters in Mr. Chafin's possession, dated in June and July 1681, he infers, that the summers then were much hotter than in the greater part of the last century. The time of meeting at Cranbourn Chase in those days seems invariably to have been at four o'clock in the evening; it was the custom of the sportsmen to take a slight repast at two o'clock, and to dine at the most fashionable hours of the present day. Mr. Chafin deemed hunting in an evening well-judged, and advantageous every way. The deer were at that time upon their legs, and more easily found; they were empty, and more able to run, and to show sport; and as the evening advanced, and the dew fell, the scent gradually improved, and the cool air enabled the horses and the hounds to recover their wind, and go through their work without injury; whereas just the reverse of this would be the hunting late in a morning. What has been mentioned is peculiar to Buck-hunting only.
Stag-hunting is in some measure a summer amusement also; but that chase is generally much too long to be ventured on in an evening. It would carry the sportsman too far distant from their homes. It is absolutely necessary, therefore, in pursuing the stag, to have the whole day before
It was customary, in the last century, for sportsmen addicted to the sport of Buck-hunting, and who regularly followed it, to meet every season on the 29th day of May, king Charles's restoration, with oak
boughs in their hats or caps, to show their loyalty, (velvet caps were chiefly worn in those days, even by the ladies,) and te hunt young male deer, in order to enter the young hounds, and to stoop them, to their right game, and to get the older ones in wind and exercise, preparatory to the commencement of the buck-killing season.
This practice was termed "blooding the hounds" and the young deer killed were called "blooding-deer," and their venison was deemed fit for an epicure. It was reported, that an hind quarter of this sort of venison, which had been thoroughly hunted, was once placed on the table before the celebrated Mr. Quin, at Bath, who declared it to be the greatest luxury he ever met with, and ate very heartily of it. But this taste seems not to have been peculiar to Mr. Quin; for persons of high rank joined in the opinion: and even judges, when on their circuits, indulged in the same luxury.
The following is an extract from a steward's old accompt-book, found in the noble old mansion of Orchard Portman, near Taunton, in Somersetsaire' "10th August
From hence, therefore, it appears, that in those days buck-hunting, for there could be no other kind of hunting meant, was in so much repute, and so much delighted in, that even the judges could not refrain from partaking in it when on their circuits; and it seems that they chose to hunt their own venison, which they annually received from Orchard park at the time of the assizes. "I cannot but deem them good judges," says Mr. Chafin, "for preferring hunted venison to that which had been shot."
Other Sports of Cranbourn Chase.
Besides buck-hunting, which certainly was the principal one, the chase afforded other rural amusements to our ancestors in former days. "I am well aware," Mr.Chafin says, in preparing some notices of them, "that there are many young persons who are very indifferent and care little about what was practised by their ancestors, or how they amused themselves; they are looking forward, and do not choose to look back: but there may be some not so indifferent, and to whom a relation of the sports of the field in the last century may not be displeasing." These sports, in addition
to hunting, were hawking, falconry, and cocking.
Packs of hounds were always kept in the neighbourhood of the chase, and hunted there in the proper seasons. There were three sorts of animals of chase besides deer, viz. foxes, hares, and mertincats: the race of the latter are nearly extinct; their skins were too valuable for them to be suffered to exist. At that time no hounds were kept and used for any particular sort of game except the buck-hounds, but they hunted casually the first that came in their way.
First Pack of Fox-hounds.
The first real steady pack of fox-hounds established in the western part of England was by Thomas Fownes, Esq. of Stepleton, in Dorsetshire, about 1730. They were as handsome, and fully as complete in every respect, as any of the most celebrated packs of the present day. The owner was obliged to dispose of them, and they were sold to Mr. Bowes, in Yorkshire, the father of the late lady Strathmore, at an immense price. They were taken into Yorkshire by their own attendants, and, after having been viewed and much admired in their kennel, a day was fixed for making trial of them in the field, to meet at a famous hare-cover near. When the huntsman came with his hounds in the morning, he discovered a great number of sportsmen, who were riding in the cover, and whipping the furzes as for a hare; he therefore halted, and informed Mr. Bowes that he was unwilling to throw off his hounds until the gentlemen had retired, and ceased the slapping of whips, to which his hounds were not accustomed, and he would engage to find a fox in a few minutes if there was one there. The gentlemen sportsmen having obeyed the orders given by Mr. Bowes, the huntsman, taking the wind of the cover, threw off his hounds, which immediately began to feather, and soon got upon a drag into the cover, and up to the fox's kennel, which went off close before them, and, after a severe burst over a fine country, was killed, to the great satisfaction of the whole party. They then returned to the same cover, not one half of it having been drawn, and very soon found a second fox, exactly in the same manner as before, which broke cover immediately over the same fine country: but the chase was much longer; and in the course of it, the fox made its way to a nobleman's park. It had been customary to stop hounds before they could enter it, but the best-mount
ed sportsmen attempted to stay the Dorsetshire hounds in vain. The dogs topped the highest fences, dashed through herds of deer and a number of hares, without taking the least notice of them; and ran in to their fox, and killed him ɔme miles beyond the park. It was the unanimous opinion of the whole hunt, that it was the finest run ever known in that country. A collection of field-money was made for the huntsman, much beyond his expectations; and he returned to Stepleton in better spirits than he left it.
Before this pack was raised in Dorsetshire, the hounds that hunted Cranbourn Chase, hunted all the animals promiscuously, except the deer, from which they were necessarily kept steady, otherwise they would not have been suffered to hunt in the chase at all.
Origin of Cranbourn Chase.
This royal chase, always called "The King's Chase," in the lapse of ages came into possession of an earl of Salisbury. It is certain that after one of its eight distinct walks, called Fernditch Walk, was sold to the earl of Pembroke, the entire remainder
of the chase was alienated to lord Ashley, afterwards earl of Shaftesbury. Alderholt Walk was the largest and most extensive in the whole Chase; it lies in the three counties of Hants, Wilts, and Dorset; but the lodge and its appurtenances is in the parish of Cranbourn, and all the Chase courts are held at the manor-house there, where was also a prison for offenders against the Chase laws. Lord Shaftesbury deputed rangers in the different walks in the year 1670, and afterwards dismembering it, (though according to old records, it appears to have been dismembered long before,) by destroying Alderholt Walk; he sold the remainder to Mr. Freke, of Shroton, in Dorsetshire, from whom it lineally descended to the present possessor, lord
Accounts of Cranbourn Chase can be traced to the æra when king John, or some other royal personage, had a hunting-seat at Tollard Royal, n the county of Wilts. Hence the name a royal" to that parish was certainly derived. There are vestiges in and about the old palace, which clearly evince that it was once a royal habitation; and it still bears the name of " King John's House." There are large cypress trees growing before the house, the relics o grand terraces may be easily traced, and